Rogues' Gallery Revisited

This time last year, Lehman Brothers was fighting for survival, and there was some good reason to expect the firm to survive in one form or another. The consensus view on Wall Street was that its management--to wit, its CEO, Dick Fuld--was stronger and more capable than that of the last basket-case investment bank to implode, Bear Stearns, where various members of upper management seemed more concerned with their golf scores, playing bridge or smoking a joint than running a major investment bank.

More than that, Lehman was supposed to be a real firm. Sure its balance sheet contained toxic assets, but unlike Bear, which mainly traded mortgage debt, Lehman had a decent full-scale investment bank with traders, bankers and an asset-management arm that some white knight would surely buy at some point.